In today’s “Internet”, “National Chain” vs. “YOU the Local Guy” market place, competition is fierce! How in the world do you compete against The Corporate Pocket Book? I may be over-simplifying it, but I really do think the answer is simple. You have to “Out Serve” them. You must give what we call “Memorable Customer Service.”
If you think back to your encounters with businesses over the past month or even only a week, I think you will find that you will not really remember much about those encounters. What ones you do remember are the really good and the really bad encounters. The really bad ones are REALLY damaging to that business! Those are the ones that we tend to talk about – we share them with our spouses and the next 5-10 people we encounter. Maybe you did not get something you were promised or the business refused to stand behind their product. It just frustrates the tar out of you and then you vent to the next person/people you come in contact with until your frustration dies down.
As unfair as it may seem, we don’t tend to talk about the really good ones without being prompted. What I mean by this is that when you run into someone who is having a problem with something or someone and you say to them “Why don’t you give ‘so and so’ a call, they did a great job for me when I had that problem”. At that point you might even tell them you’re good experience in some detail. So the key to customer service success is to eliminate the really bad and multiply the really good ones.
So how do we multiply the good service experiences? I isn’t easy, but it is simple:
- Common Courtesy
I guess I may be getting old, but I feel respected and valued when someone says “Good morning sir, how can I help you” or better yet calls me by name. How rare is that in your daily life? It used to be part of “common” speech, now it is unusual to hear. How about “pardon me” instead of “what” or “excuse me” or “please” and “thank you.” At this point in our culture, these common courtesies may need to be trained into your staff, unless you are hiring “older folks.” When you go into a business that uses courteous language, it feels different, you feel more valued and respected. That in itself is unusual enough to be remembered. Oh, I forgot to mention – it is free! People may not pick up on exactly why your business has made them feel valued, but they will want to come back and experience that again.
- You must Care
You must care about your customers problems like they were your own and more to the point, your customer must “feel” that caring in order for it to mean something. Our business philosophy is to “Meet Needs” rather that “Sell Products”; we believe in a win – win model. My job is to discover needs that our prospects and clients have and to fit our products and services to their needs – NOT the other way around. Our solutions (services) must help them to do business better and more efficiently – we must bring real value to the relationship. If I don’t find a good fit in the consulting process, I walk away with a hand shake and the prospect does not feel like we tried to sell them something they did not need. Frequently they call us at a later date and ask to do business with us when their situation changes.
- No Excuses
In your relations with existing clients, at some point something will go wrong. When it does – stand up and fix it! Be sincere, apologize and get to work on solutions. Don’t make your mistake your customers’ problem. How many times have you had an issue with a vendor or service provider and had them make you go out of the way to fix their error. Look – everybody makes mistakes. Most folks are just looking for you to say, “I am sorry this happened. Let me take care of this for you.” Just treat them as you would want to be treated.
If you want to win in today’s market, train your people to have exceptional manners in your client relations. You must meet needs – you must not sell and lastly you must stand behind your work and do it personally. It all boils down to making folks feel respected and valued – these are two things that are sadly lacking in our culture in general. That is what “Memorable Service” means. If you accomplish it – you will stand out and your clients will become your biggest fans!